14 Ways to Help Ensure Your Next Website Doesn't Suck.

Posted: May 12, 2015

Topics: Strategy, Technology

If you’ve got a website that sucks, you know how much it sucks. It looks dated. It doesn’t generate leads. And it hasn’t changed much since the day it was launched. The guys who built it said it would be easy to update but the reality is your team can’t update it. And your sales team complains at every chance they get that they can’t find any information on “that damn thing.”

Everyone knows it sucks and you’ve been tasked with doing something about it this year. But how do you keep your new website from heading down the same path that led to your sucky one?

  • Focus on Responsive Web Design
    The first thing you need to make sure of is that your new website is a responsive website. Responsive web design ensures your site will look good and function properly whether you’re on a desktop computer, mobile phone, or tablet. Google thinks it’s important too – if your site delivers a consistent experience across devices, it will score points with Google and will be more likely to receive a higher ranking in search results.

  • Recognize your website is an important investment.
    A well thought out, well-designed, well-built and well-supported B2B website is a significant investment and should be a major item in your annual marketing budget. If it isn’t, take another look at your budget.
  • Budget for a great website AND great content.
    With few exceptions, great photography, illustration and video make for great website experiences. And generally, the costs of developing those assets won’t be covered by your development agreement. If your site is filled with long repetitive pages of text and not much else, it’s probably going to suck. And who wants that?
  • Don’t go with the low bid.
    The old saying – you get what you pay for – is still generally true. If you get three bids and go with one that’s significantly lower, you probably aren’t going to be happy with the outcome. Lowball bids generally don’t take into account anything other than the bare minimum – graphic design, words and repurposed code. A great website starts with strategy and involves so much more.
  • Make sure you have a clearly defined brand strategy.
    Your website is an extension of your brand so if you don’t have a brand strategy driving it – and communicate that strategy clearly to everyone involved in the web project – you probably won’t be happy with the results. A solid brand strategy helps to drive everything – from design to functionality to tone to content strategy to the user experience.
  • Start with goals, not designs.
    Setting goals at the onset of your website project is critical if you expect your investment to deliver ROI. And ROI also makes the whole project an easier sell to senior management. Increasing traffic, generating more leads and engaging more existing customers for organic growth are all examples of goals that can measured and evaluated – just make sure you define what terms like “leads” and “traffic” mean so everyone’s working towards the same expectations. And don’t forget to benchmark your current site! Benchmarking your current site is important if you goals include measuring traffic, leads or other quantitative values!

  • Clearly define your users and which ones matter most.
    They used to be called your target audiences. Then they became user profiles. Now they’re personas. Whatever you want to call them, the basic principle is the same – if you don’t know your audience, you can’t possibly hope to engage with them.
  • Put business goals before technology goals.
    IT guys are often quite brilliant but don’t always understand web strategy and/or digital best practices. Building for the web is nothing like managing internal networks, launching ERP systems or removing spyware from laptops, so putting your IT guy in charge of your new website may not automatically be the best choice.
  • Make sure you’ll be able to make changes to it.
    Remember when your IT team told you to make sure your new site is built using “Technology X” because they'd be able to support it? They lied to you. They’re too busy to support your website and now you’re stuck with a site you can’t change and evolve. And that sucks.
  • Spend less time worrying about lowest common denominator users.
    When you’re building sites for the lowest common denominator you’re going to limit the experience you can deliver and too many web projects get slowed down with concerns over a small percentage of users. In most cases, older versions of Internet Explorer are no longer a major concern so don’t waste resources trying to support them.
  • Don’t build a site that needs constant content updates if you don’t have time to generate them.
    You know what I’m talking about – homepages with news articles from 2011, outdated product information and online employee profiles for people who left the company 18 months ago. It’s what happens when you don’t properly budget for maintenance and content development as part of the project. It’s also a major cause of websites that suck.
  • Give internal creative teams a say, but not the final one.
    A good internal “creative” team can be an amazing asset to a company but they often don’t have the organizational clout needed to drive the process of creating a new website. Your internal team gets pushed and pulled by “decision-makers” who may not understand the web the way a specialized digital agency does.
  • Get fully engaged in the process.
    A great website takes a lot of work and engagement but not only from your web firm. If your only engagement in the process is picking a design you like, be prepared for a website that sucks.
  • Don’t hire an “IT company” to build it.
    IT companies know technology but great websites aren’t just about technology – they’re about business and communication goals, and an extension of your brand. And branding and communications isn’t something most IT folks have as a core competence. Engage your IT vendor for complicated integrations with your internal systems but leave the web design and development to the folks who specialize and know it best.

    This post was written by R. Wilkie, Creative Director at PUSH 22.